But I Love Her

If you’re married, you’ll get this right off the bat. If not, you’ll know what I’m talking about too, since I’m not married.

Spouses make mistakes. We all know this. It’s not a mystery. Those we love hurt us, sometimes even very profoundly. It’s awful that this happens. That much is true. Yet, Sometimes we expect some sort of perfection from faith.

Faith is disappointing at times. But that doesn’t mean you love it any less. The disciples were disappointed that Jesus left their hopes dashed, did not conquer the Romans and in fact died a shameful death at the hands of Pagans. Yet they didn’t forsake him utterly.

I guess this is my first “Reasons I’m Catholic” post. I didn’t want to present a huge apologetic, or a fantastically solid defense of doctrine. I could do that. I have done that. Today I’m not in the mood. Today, I want to tell you something.

My Church is flawed, She is wounded, She is hurt by the failures of bishops and individuals, through sins of omission and commission. However strong she is, there seem to be people always screwing things up. Sometimes She needs my help, at others I need hers.

How can we expect faith to be anything other than an echo of marriage? If that’s the case, then Christians are the ones who run to God and His Church in their hour of need. Marriage isn’t getting all your needs met, it’s meeting the needs of others. When I join the community of Faith I marry Christ, and in some sense His people.

Despite abuses, and misunderstandings and failures in communication, I love my Church the way one loves their spouse. She has made mistakes, but she’s still Holy. She isn’t perfect, but she’s mine.

I love my Church, I love her, her songs, and her worship, her theology and presence and power. She extends fellowship to the poorest of the poor, and makes the rich tremble, she stands firm against the desecration of life, and makes peace where there is war. She incites peaceful revolutions, and upholds human dignity. Her servants, her children, stand strong in the name of virtue, and defend the cause of widows, of lepers, of those condemned to death. She is not perfect, other of her children falter, they flag, the wound her, yet she stands.

I love this woman, Church. Mother Church, for all her imperfections is still wholly perfect to me. She is filled with human beings and while some are running away in this time, or staying away from conversion for fear, I am running to her. I need her. I love her.

You may say, “She’s all corrupt from the top-down!” Yet, give her to me corrupt and I shall clean her, give her to me imperfect, and I shall wipe her tears. Give her to me, where you might cast a stone, and I will stand for her, protecting her, loving her. I have given myself to my faith, and she is mine. I have given myself to Jesus, and I am His.

Where you might sneer, or jest I shall lay down my cloak for the Bride of Christ. Where you would point fingers of accusation, I will spread my cloak over her, and place the ring that binds us in confirmation upon her finger. Where you would call me away from so strange a Church, I say that I shall run to her because of her quirks. Where you would question her son the Pope, I say, my oldest, wisest living brother in Christ likely knows the way in which Mother and Father know best.

I see her flaws, I see the wounded across history. I see their tears, but I don’t see them alone. She does too. She weeps for her faults, she repents for her mistakes. She affirms man and woman, she makes way for the celebration of life and light. She offers me the Bread of Life when I am hungry. I know she is imperfect. I know her citizens, her children can damage her image, and yet she stands. Embattled, she looks resplendent. In times of war she brings calm and offers asylum to all who would run to her houses.

When the world has cast us out, it is always she who welcomes us, calls to us and takes us in. Mother Church, with Mother Mary, and all the saints. Where my friends have failed to pray for me, her saints, her blessed children never have. Where I have been left hungry or alone, she has shown me that I am not alone, and that brothers and sisters worldwide feel this same hunger. Where I have lacked direction, she has given me libraries of counselors and saints who have all quested after the Triune God through her embrace, and real flesh and blood men and women of wisdom, and virtue; shaped in the fires of sacrifice these have shared depths of understanding that pierce through my everyday.

How shall I judge so great a lady and esteem her fallen?

Where shall I rise to stand above her? By what authority, whether heavenly, or earthly shall I judge this great and holy Mother Church? By what right shall I cast shallow and snide judgments on the bride of my Lord?

If she is who she says she is, then despite her disappointing me from time to time, it is with her I shall stand. I have made my peace with the fact that She has authority over me, and that though my water of purification was not at its time, she has asked me to let Christ make wine, and so I shall. She has told me to take hold of this new wine, and celebrate new life, and new virtue in the fullness of faith. She has called me to rejoicing, she has called me to her side, and asked me to join a family larger than any I could have dreamed of.

Where shall I stand? On the authority of the Bible? She has written it and given it to me. By the authority of secularism? She defeats every attack on logic with her compelling and powerful words of wisdom. She is the gift of the Logos Himself. By the authority of Christ? He Himself gave her over to us through the apostles. By the history of the Reformation? A rebellious priest/monk is no basis of comparison to the Church Fathers. Where shall I find the higher ground to hold her as inferior to the “freedom” which my evangelical upbringing brought to me? Certainly not in Charismatic expressions of faith, because she is their origin. The One Church has never stopped being Charismatic.

There is no authority then by which I shall presume to judge her worthy of condemnation. If this be the case, then to call her Mother, to take upon myself the surname of Catholic, is simply an act of spousal love. I have tried to refute her, I had tried to dissuade myself, but for all my damnable logic, it was love that overpowered me. I have only one choice, to Love my God, and to love my neighbor, if these are the commandments, then to be Catholic is simply the most logical and most loving way to go about these commands. No other Church has spent as much time or energy fighting poverty, or abuse or famine or suffering. She may be imperfect in my eyes at times, but it is especially in these imperfections that I must run to her. Where I notice a weakness, I must rebuild the walls of Rome with all my brothers and sisters, and together we shall love her and those she gives to us.

I love the Church, and from Her I shall never depart, she is my Mother, and it is through her Motherhood that I have come to once again call God my Father.


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3 responses to “But I Love Her”

  1. Mike says :

    Hey Eli,

    I think I’ve mentioned this before, but this post captures an idea that has been important in how I approach our faith. It’s the idea that problems in our church are the responsibility of the faithful to fix, not to flee. To constructively engage the Church in an attempt to bring both of us closer to the Kingdom.

    Its interesting that, even though we have different ways of entering the Church, this has become a central part of both of our attitudes. My story has been more a story of continual confirmation, each time diving slowly deeper, sometimes rapidly, but more often slowly.

    It seems to me that you can learn a lot about someone by asking them “Why are you Catholic”? Its a simple question but the answers can reveal a lot. Not only in what specific issues a person focuses on, but in how they choose to present those issues, the structure, style and argumentation. Its similar to Saint Paul’s request to always have an answer for the hope that you have.

  2. Eli says :

    It really is interesting how this set of questions has shaped both our quests. I agree that it is important we remember to engage the Church as ministers, and as a priesthood of all believers, we are called to uphold the Holy Church and to fill her gaps with ourselves.

    Great response, and lots to think on, I am sure.

  3. Chad Woolf says :

    Each of us must choose to live under the authority of the community of faith we have selected. To do anything else it anarchy at worst and shallow self-deception at best.

    But for those of us who choose to live outside the authority of the Roman Catholic church the idea of her writing the Bible or being above judgement is unacceptable. I am not a Catholic basher, but an honest assessment of Church history would show no time where there was a truly unified church.

    The Scriptures were Scripture before the councils canonized them, and that word itself simply means to measure, as in they were agreeing with the earliest followers of Jesus that yes these were His teachings. The Scripture interpreted through proper exegesis, the community of current and past saints, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit is the ultimate authority on life and Godliness. To deviate from this standard in my opinion is the beginning of disaster.

    Good post Eli, I just thought I’d give you an apostates opinion 🙂

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